Flowers collected during the foraging session. Keneilwe Mathaba

What empowering resilience in South Africa looks like

GLF Youth in Landscapes representative Keneilwe Mathaba takes us with her to the Eden Festival of Action 2022

South Africa is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to a combination of political, geographic and social factors. What’s more, the impacts are already being felt, with extreme weather, droughts, flooding and fires commonplace across the country.

However, in the face of great crisis, communities of resilience have grown, and the Eden Festival of Action is one such example. This seven-day environmental gathering blends practical restoration activities with educational talks and workshops, as well as storytelling and music. It aims to empower regenerative communities while equipping them with the tools they need to fight climate change on the ground.

This year, Youth in Landscapes, which is the youth program of the Global Landscapes Forum, sponsored representative Keneilwe Mathaba from the Young African Landscape Leadership program to attend the Eden Festival of Action. Below, Keneilwe guides us through her time at the South African festival with a series of photos that capture the energy, commitment and hope of young people in climate action.

“Being a part of a community that not only cares about the landscape ecosystems but also about the livelihoods people derive from these landscapes was quite an amazing and wonderful experience.”

Group photo after tree planting at Phachamama Healing Sanctuary and Rest Camp at the Eden Festival of Action 2022.
Group photo after tree planting at Pachamama Healing Sanctuary and Rest Camp. Keneilwe Mathaba

“My biggest highlights of all were the two main tree planting sessions that took place in Pachamama Healing Sanctuary and Rest Camp and Wild Spirit Lodge, where we planted 1,000 and 650 indigenous trees respectively. These trees were planted in the land historically dominated by invasive black wattle trees.”

A GLF representative planting a tree at Phachamama Healing Sanctuary and Rest Camp.
GLF representative planting a tree at Pachamama Healing Sanctuary and Rest Camp, where 1,000 trees in total were planted that day. Keneilwe Mathaba

“The planting methods and techniques of using patterns are some of the principles of permaculture used mostly in agroforestry projects. It was during these events that I saw the spirit of community being manifested as people from neighboring homes and lodges came to assist.”

A group of people plant native trees.
Eden Festival of Action participants planting trees. Keneilwe Mathaba

“It reminded me of a custom called Letsema that was (and still is) practiced in some parts of my country, Botswana. Letsema (a Setswana word that means voluntarily working together) is an important Indigenous practice. It has been in existence since time immemorial among many Africans. It urges people to collectively build communities through voluntary contributions and services toward a common development task.”

People smiling during a team building exercise at the Eden Festival of Action 2022.
A team-building exercise on one of the mornings. Keneilwe Mathaba

“I was surrounded by a diverse group of individuals from many nations even outside Africa, which to me was important as we exchanged ideas, experiences and skills.”

People sit to watch a presentation.
A permaculture session at the Eden Festival of Action 2022. Keneilwe Mathaba

“I had an opportunity to attend sessions including a beach clean-up at Nature Valley, permaculture practices, touring the Pachamama agroforestry infrastructure, mycology (something I didn’t expect at all), waste upcycling, making a biodigester, and also foraging edible plants and flowers.”

Two participants help clean litter from a beach.
GLF representatives participating in a beach clean up at Nature Valley organized by Nature Valley Trust. Keneilwe Mathaba

“There was so much to learn as well as the opportunity to be in oneness with nature, in a very accommodating environment surrounded by forests, birdlife and wildlife, and water sources.”

Participants learn about waste management.
A session on waste recycling. Keneilwe Mathaba

“I was happy to witness the Wild Spirit Lodge recycling bay and observed how they work tirelessly to not send anything to the landfill. The landfill bin was basically non-existent despite being labeled at the bay. Personally, I felt challenged to look deeply into my daily lifestyle, at how much I contribute to the generation of waste, which we learned can be turned into a source of income if sorted well and disposed of properly for recycling.”

A session facilitator explains edible plants and flowers.
A facilitator of a session on edible plants and flowers. Keneilwe Mathaba

“Another thing of interest was the experience of vegan meals for a whole week. I am still learning what a plant-based diet is and how beneficial or not it is to the environment and human life as compared to a meat-based diet. In my opinion, if our consumption habits, whether plant-based or not, continue to be exuberant and without regard to the impact they cause, we will continue to wound the environment.”

A woodworking session at the Eden Festival of Action 2022.
Participants in a woodworking session. Keneilwe Mathaba

“When dealing with conservation, there is no species that is not of importance, so it is upon us as custodians to make sure that we give back to our environment as a form of investment. Holistic environmental conservation and livelihoods strategies are important.”

A group stands in a circle at the Eden Festival of Action 2022.
The morning circle where participants check in with each other and give daily updates. Keneilwe Mathaba

This year’s event was hosted by a dedicated supporter of Greenpop activities, Wild Spirit Lodge in the Garden Route, South Africa.

Keneilwe Mathaba is a Natural Resource Management and Environmental Education practitioner who graduated with a bachelor’s in environmental science and English from the University of Botswana and obtained a master’s in natural resource management and assessment from the University of Dar es Salaam.

She is currently pursuing a PhD in environmental sustainability education with Rhodes University, studying how stakeholders in natural resource management can collaboratively learn and work together and fully engage and participate to sustain communal rangeland ecosystems and their livelihoods.

She previously worked at Cheetah Conservation Botswana as a volunteer, conservation education officer and as communities for conservation coordinator. Additionally, she worked at Kalahari Conservation Society as an environment and conservation officer.

Article tags

photographyrestorationtree plantingYouth in Landscapes

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